Research has noted the existence of a loose and dynamic gang structure. However, the psychological processes that underpin gang membership have only begun to be addressed. This study examined gang members, peripheral youth, and non-gang youth across measures of criminal activity, the importance they attach to status, their levels of moral disengagement, their perceptions of out-group threat, and their attitudes toward authority. Of the seven hundred and ninety eight high school students who participated in this study, 59 were identified as gang members, 75 as peripheral youth and 664 as non-gang youth. Gang members and peripheral youth were more delinquent than non-gang youth overall, however, gang members committed more minor offenses than non-gang youth and peripheral youth committed more violent offenses than non-gang youth. Gang members were more anti-authority than non-gang youth, and both gang and peripheral youth valued social status more than non-gang youth. Gang members were also more likely to blame their victims for their actions and use euphemisms to sanitize their behavior than non-gang youth; whereas peripheral youth were more likely than non-gang youth to displace responsibility onto their superiors. These findings are discussed as they highlight the importance of examining individual differences in the cognitive processes that relate to gang involvement
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